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  • Bobby Blotzer’s Ratt Experience – Bringing the Ratt Classics to Sin City!

    Bobby Blotzer's Ratt Experience played Vamp'd on Saturday June 27, 2015. Cyanide opened the show.
    Bobby Blotzer’s Ratt Experience played Vamp’d on Saturday June 27, 2015. Cyanide opened the show.

     

     

    It was a night many were looking forward to. Certainly me. With bated breath for about three months since the announcement that stickman Bobby Blotzer was putting together a band to recreate the experience of seeing Ratt, but with a twist; one that would include deep cuts never performed as well as songs not played in concert in eons. For those who don’t know, inner-band drama has plagued the band in recent years and thus, unfortunately, sidelined them from releasing a studio album owed to their current label. Original frontman/lead vocalist Stephen Pearcy has quit for the third time, and finding a suitable replacement for his slot has been up in the air for quite some time now. In the interim, a member or two have contemplated other projects, while “The Blotz” has been itching to get back on the road, and rightfully so since recovering from his neck surgery in late ’13.

    A local favorite, whose full set I was yet to catch, Cyanide, took the stage in fine form. Opening with the lead-off track “Bitches to Blame” off their recent debut, Lethal Dose, lead vocalist Robert Hussey sang his heart out, showing his impressive near four octave range while getting the party started in style. The melodic hard rock four piece unit plus live back-up vocalist Miranda Trenholm, proceeded to deliver a total of six original songs found on this year’s release, along with a smattering of covers by groups who influenced them, such as BulletBoys, Van Halen, and KISS. The band cleverly closed out their set with a near spot on take of Motley Crue’s “Louder Than Hell,” a tune released in 1985, which set the tone perfectly for the night’s headliner.

     

    Cyanide setlist, featuring a mixture of tracks from their debut album Lethal Dose, and covers.
    Cyanide setlist, featuring a mixture of tracks from their debut album Lethal Dose, and covers.

     

    Having seen Ratt in various incarnations since ’84 up until ’10 and Pearcy’s solo project twice as well as Vertex once, I believe that I qualify to critique as well as praise here.

     

    After a short intermission, just before 11:30, Bobby Blotzer’s Ratt Experience set Count’s Vamp’d ablaze with a selection from 1987’s Dancing Undercover: lead single “Dance.” This was their public debut, and what a debut it was. Blaze, their 21 year old axe slinger with longish dark straight hair slightly reminiscent of a certain someone, took no prisoners as he deftly executed guitar hero Warren DeMartini’s leads to a “T.” If there were any lingering doubts about this quintet being able to pull off what the band’s moniker implies, they should’ve been laid to rest after this number, especially if you closed your eyes.

     

    Setlist from the performance, which included the complete Invasion of Your Privacy album.
    Setlist from the performance, combining deep cuts and classic hits alike.

     

    This was no RATT tribute band. Visually, the members didn’t necessarily mimic the hairstyles of the original Ratt gang (there were two exceptions), nor even play duplicate models of their well known guitars, although on one song towards the end they did do some trademark guitar choreography. Sonically though, the guitar tones were dialed in, and Pearcy’s trademark slight rasp was approximated admirably by Sin City Sinners’ Josh Alan (who had darker hair now than I recall, a good move for this gig). He also impressed me with being faithful to the recorded versions of the vocals on Ratt’s classic first five full-length LPs, something that Pearcy, legendary or not, has not been fulfilling for quite some time. Also, worth noting was that his stage banter echoed Stephen’s, being kept to a minimum, as well as a liberal use of the word “motherf***er” when encouraging the audience throughout the show. He didn’t pin up one side of his mane though, nor did he wear an 80s Pearcy-style headband.

     

    Vocalist Joshua Alan and bassist Scott Griffin perform in Bobby Blotzer's RATT Experience.
    Vocalist Joshua Alan and bassist Scott Griffin perform in Bobby Blotzer’s RATT Experience.

     

    Following the opening song were back-to-back selections from the oft-maligned Reach For the Sky; “City to City” and “I Want a Woman.” Axeman Michael “Doc” Ellis, also of the Sinners and Jizzy Pearl’s Love/Hate, faithfully reproduced Robbin Crosby’s incendiary lead work on the latter, as well as in the other songs of the night where it was expected. All in all, the eventual 21 song set list had a great mix of diehard fans’ chestnuts, songs long since retired from live shows of the L.A. metal explosion’s forerunners, as well as a good balance of obligatory hits. A dream list to most, I’d say.

     

    21 year old guitar God Blaize!
    21 year old guitar God Blaze!

     

    When Alan removed his sunglasses it cued up an awaited change of pace: a song-by song rundown of Invasion of Your Privacy, which was released this month 30 years ago. Only skipping the eighth and tenth track of the follow-up to their smash hit debut, Out of the Cellar, this is where the band shone brightly. Of the eight songs that followed this section, stand-outs included “Looking For Love,” and Cellar‘s “Scene of the Crime” and “She Wants Money.” Scott Griffin, bassist (ex-L.A. Guns and once and current Sin City Sinner) more than capably held down the bottom end as well as co-lead vocals on “Lack of Communication,” which was preceded by a faithful reading of Detonator‘s “Shame, Shame, Shame,” intro and all.

     

    Bassist and backing vocalist Doc Ellis.
    Guitarist and backing vocalist Doc Ellis.

     

    Were there some songs that could’ve been included? Were missed by some fans? Yes. That’s always the case with any concert where a band has a weighty catalog to glean from. But, again, a majority of the ones that have been plowed into the ground over the last 31 years were smartly replaced by gems not played in a live setting largely in that time span, either by Ratt, nor Stephen Pearcy’s solo band.

    If you’re a Ratt fan and missed this one, catch them on a return trip to Sin City if there is one in the future, if not one of their upcoming tour dates. It’s the fix you need, while the band contemplates their future. Take a chance and scratch that itch. Don’t cheat yourself, treat yourself. Satisfaction guaranteed.

     

    The brains and drums behind the Ratt Experience- Bobby Blotzer!
    The brains and drums behind the Ratt Experience- Bobby Blotzer!

     

     

     

    Live Photos ©Stephy Hayward / ZRock’R Magazine



  • Little Brother is Watching – The Latest Solo Effort from Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal!

    Little Brother is Watching is the tenth solo album from Bumblefoot, and his first full-length record of original material since 2008.
    Little Brother is Watching is the tenth solo album from Bumblefoot, and his first full-length record of original material since 2008.

     

     

    It has been two decades since guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal released his first solo record, way back in 1995. And for years, he has been unleashing his guitar work on the world, rising to his greatest prominence a few years ago when he became the guitarist in Guns N Roses, playing on their long awaited Chinese Democracy record. Many releases later he still has a massive following, both as a member of GNR and as a solo guitarist, who also regularly appears on and plays on records by other performers.

    Little Brother is Watching marks the tenth solo studio album from Bumblefoot, and the first of original material since the Abnormal album in 2008. Long waited by fans, the album has finally seen release, featuring a backing band that is comprised of Dennis Leeflang on drums, Rocco Monterosso on guitar, and Frankie Italiano on bass. In interviews, Bumblefoot has named a number of diverse artists as influences on the sessions that spawned this album. How does the end result here measure up?

    Prior to this album, I had never listened to a Bumblefoot solo album, having only been familiar with his work in Guns N Roses in recent years. But after giving Little Brother is Watching a listen, it is clear that I have made a mistake in overlooking his solo catalogue, and I will likely be going back to check out further albums from his career. Little Brother is Watching is a surprisingly diverse album that explores a myriad of musical styles in its hour long run time.

    It is worth mentioning that this guy is criminally underrated as a guitarist. Just giving a few of this album’s tracks a listen is going to blow you away by the sheer musical diversity alone. This guy is not just “the replacement guitarist in Guns N Roses.” He is a diverse and capable musician of the highest order, and there is not a single track on Little Brother is Watching that does not demonstrate this fact to some degree.

    So, what exactly do you get on Little Brother is Watching? The simple answer is “a little bit of everything.” The album does not have one single style, yet everything works and comes together as an album well. There are hard and heavy tracks, melodic ones, pop-flavored ones, and even a few unexpected surprises. Many of the heavier, melodic, and more progressive tracks bring Muse to mind (one of the few modern rock bands I actually find to be enjoyable) though the sounds on here really are all over the place and not limited to those of any one style. Hell, there were tracks that reminded me of everything from Cheap Trick to Sgt. Pepper/Magical Mystery Tour-era Beatles! As far as diversity goes, this album is a definite winner. Bumblefoot himself succeeds not only as a guitar wizard, but as a surprisingly good vocalist as well.

    The strengths far outweigh the weaknesses on this record; there is a lot to love about this album. If I have one minor complaint, it is that a number of the songs have run times that are slightly longer than they need to be; the album’s hour long length feels a bit excessive, though not overly so thanks to the diversity and musical talent present on the record. Any minor issues that exist should not stop you from checking out this release.

    In the long run, Little Brother is Watching is a solid effort from a criminally underrated guitarist, and you would be wise to give this release the attention it deserves. Musically diverse with many unexpected twists and turns in its duration, this is a diverse record that transcends any “rock” or “metal” label, instead taking its listeners to many unexpected destinations. And this fan, for one, thoroughly enjoyed the trip. Little Brother is Watching comes strongly recommended.

     

     



  • The Scintilla Project – The New Side Project from Saxon’s Biff Byford!

    The Scintilla Project is the new side project from Saxon singer Biff Byford.
    The Scintilla Project is the new side project from Saxon singer Biff Byford. The Hybrid is their debut record.

     

     

    Over the years, Peter “Biff” Byford has been the voice of Saxon, a legendary New Wave of British Heavy Metal band that has endured to this day, with Byford as one of its few remaining original members. While the world has long known him for his work in Saxon, last year he embarked upon an unexpected side project it is not likely any Saxon fan would have expected!

    The Scintilla Project is Byford’s side project, formed in 2013 and inspired by the film Scintilla. In addition to Byford, the group also includes drummer Lionel Hicks, bassist Anthony Ritchie, and guitarist Andy Sneap. It is unlikely fans ever thought they would hear the voice of Saxon in another band, so this is a release that fans have been looking to with optimism and skepticism alike. But how does the Scintilla Project’s album actually measure up?

    This release from the Scintilla Project is definitely an interesting side project for Biff; his vocals are unmistakable, but at the same time this would never be mistaken for a traditional Saxon album either. The album, at large, takes on a more modern flavored rock sound, with some elements of other genres; it definitely helps this release to stand on its own and maintain a unique feel.

    What the band does on this release helps to convey a science fiction feel of sorts, with a unique modern style rock sound fronted by one of the most iconic voices in the classic metal world. While I love the sound of what Byford has done with Saxon over the years, it was actually pleasantly surprising to see him try his hand at something newer and more modern, but that also does not blatantly feel like it is copying standard modern music trends at the same time. Some track run times are a bit overlong, but that is my only substantial complaint here. The end result, admittedly, will not be loved by all classic Saxon fans, but those with an open mind are sure to enjoy this side project.

    In the end, is this album from the Scintilla Project worth checking out? Biff Byford has created an interesting release here, and it is definitely worth checking out if you are curious. Do not come in expecting the new Saxon record, but if you have an open mind you are bound to enjoy this album.

     

     



  • Featured ImageFrank DiMino – New Album Listening Party at Vamp’d Vegas!

    Frank DiMino's listening party for Old Habits Die Hard was at Vamp'd on June 25, early in the evening.
    Frank DiMino’s listening party for Old Habits Die Hard was at Vamp’d on June 25, early in the evening.

     

     

    In the 1970s, Frank DiMino was vocalist of the band Angel, a great set of performers that were far ahead of their time, but never got the proper credit compared to many other acts of the day. DiMino has remained active over the years in a number of bands and other projects, and on July 10, will be releasing his first ever solo album, Old Habits Die Hard, in the United States on Frontiers Records. DiMino held a listening party for the new CD early in the evening of June 25, 2015, at Vamp’d.

    As a die-hard fan of the things DiMino has done over the years, I was all the more eager to hear his long awaited solo album; I have already given it a glowing review on this site, as I am sure plenty of other rockers will be doing upon its formal release. For this event, advance copies of the CD with a Japan only bonus track were being sold, giving fans an opportunity to get the album a good two weeks in advance.

     

    Poster from the event.
    Poster from the event.

     

    Around 6:00 PM, when the event was scheduled to begin, there were plenty of people entering Vamp’d; it is clear DiMino has no shortage of followers! Attendees included many of the people that played on the album, including Stryper guitarist Oz Fox, himself also as Las Vegas resident these days. The true surprise guest was none other than DiMino’s former Angel bandmate, Gregg Giuffria, completely unrecognizable from his former rock and roll glory days with Angel, Giuffria, and House of Lords; he has apparently made a good living since in other ventures. It was an impressive turnout of fans and musicians alike.

    Eddie Trunk of That Metal Show fame hosted the event, bringing DiMino up to the Vamp’d stage for a Q&A session with a few of the people that played on the record with him. It was interesting to get some insight into this creative process; there was plenty of humor and interesting backstory on display throughout this portion of the evening. Audience members were also invited to ask questions if they were curious about the process. Following the segment, DiMino and Trunk gave away some posters signed by the album participants to people who answered trivia questions correctly regarding the past of DiMino and Angel.

     

    Tracklist for Old Habits Die Hard, detailing those who played on the record.  I was fortunate enough to get my copy signed by many of the rockers in attendance!
    Tracklist for Old Habits Die Hard, detailing those who played on the record. I was fortunate enough to get my copy signed by many of the rockers in attendance!

     

    This was a great evening for rockers all around the Vegas Valley and beyond who came out to celebrate the album release, with my only complaints being a lack of live music (you had all of these guys together in one place, why not get a few of them up on stage to jam?) and, while I may be the only person that was longing for it, the lack of a Stump the Trunk segment. Still, audiences got a chance to hear the album over the loudspeakers, and see the first music video from the release. The fact that advance copies with a bonus track were for sale only sweetened the deal.

    Frank DiMino has always been one of the best names in the world of rock and roll. He demonstrated it back in the 1970s with Angel, and is doing it again today with his new solo record, Old Habits Die Hard. Anyone who had the luxury of attending this event got to hear DiMino’s new music, and get a taste of what promises to be one of 2015’s best rock releases!

     

     



  • Featured ImageLike It Is – Yes Brings Two Classic Albums to the Mesa Arts Center!

    Like it Is - At the Mesa Arts Center is the latest live release from Yes.
    Like it Is – At the Mesa Arts Center is the latest live release from Yes.

     

     

    Yes is one of the world’s most popular progressive rock bands of all time, being that rare group that found the balance between prog sounds and pop-rock excellence. Over the years, the group released countless albums and kept up a reputation as one of classic rock’s most popular and successful bands. While classic vocalist Jon Anderson was forced out of the band a few years back due to health issues, other members have opted to continue moving forward musically. The lineup of Yes for this live recording is comprised of vocalist Jon Davison, guitarist Steve Howe, bassist Chris Squire, keyboardist Geoffrey Downes, and drummer Alan White. Sadly, Chris Squire passed away following a battle with an illness just prior to the publication of this review; he was the only person in the band’s history to play on all of their studio material.

    This new live release from the band features them performing two of their most classic studio albums in their entirety – 1971’s Fragile, and 1972’s Close to the Edge. Anyone who follows the band at all knows these are two of the most popular and legendary of all Yes albums, and thus, the band paying homage to their golden years is welcomed here.

    The album is divided into two discs, with the Close to the Edge performance on the first disc, and the Fragile performance on the second. Of the musicians featured here, Howe and Squire appeared on the original recordings of the records; Howe recently rejoined the band following a stint with a reunited classic Asia lineup.

    While both albums were originally released within a year of one another, they could not be more different, at least as far as Yes albums go. Fragile was the band’s greatest commercial success, fueled by hits like “Roundabout” and “Long Distance Runaround,” while Close to the Edge was quite the opposite; certainly NOT mainstream or commercial, with the album consisting of three lengthy suited, including an opening cut that is 20 minutes long! Despite the differences in the approaches on both records, both are known as true classics in the Yes catalogue.

    But how does the performance itself actually fare? Surprisingly good, as this Yes fan discovered. The songs are all performed very true to their original studio renditions, with the band being as faithful as possible in a live setting. That said, there definitely are some subtle differences throughout, no doubt due to the passage of time and the live concert stage setting. The real surprise here is new vocalist Jon Davison, who definitely makes his presence known. Davison has a similar vocal range to his predecessor Jon Anderson, but you have to give the guy credit for being his own artist and not simply emulating Anderson on these cuts. This helps to give the album a more unique sound; you are not going to feel like you are hearing blatant carbon copies of the studio recordings on a live stage, and I give Davison and company all the more credit for that. Stepping in and filling the shoes of a legendary vocalist like Jon Anderson is no easy task, but Davison strikes that balance between staying faithful to the originals, and putting his own spin on it all. The rest of the group is in equally fine form, impressing throughout.

    Yes still impresses on the live stage, and it is demonstrated beautifully throughout the two discs of this live release. If you are a die-hard fan of the band curious about how the group sounds in their post-Jon Anderson years, revisiting two of the most revered records in their catalogue, this release is bound to impress. Highly recommended for all Yes fans!